Monday, 17 March 2014

Vinyl Sundays

Recent Sundays at our house have been all about getting the vinyl out.

It’s Jeremy’s collection, really. When we first met I was so pleased to find that he was a proper collector of old albums. He had stuff from every musical genre. I had friends who had properly cool collections of Bowie, Dylan and the Beatles, and who were into all kinds of obscure and indy bands. But Jeremy was the first person in my own generation I ever knew who had a collection that included all kinds of jazz, classical music and easy listening. He had a 1960s g-plan cabinet where he kept them all.

In recent years he’s been buying them in car boot sales and charity shops – but only the ones where they’re still cheap. Three for a quid kind of shopping. He won’t pay prices inflated by things like ebay. I guess it’s the same as how I feel about books: it’s not about having pristine, expensive collectory copies that you can revere and put on display and preserve like butterflies. It’s about actually reading the books and playing the records…

And hearing that crackle and hiss and pop. It’s a sound somewhere between illuminated dust falling endlessly through attics and silver meteorite dust in space and the delicious bubbly frothing when you pour hot water on coffee grounds. It’s like noisy snow and the crackle of your eardrums and all the tiny hairs standing up on your skin… and that’s the sound the record makes before it even starts playing music…

These past few Sundays I’ve been following my own nose – thinking, what would be mellow and right for a Sunday, lazy afternoon? Ella Fitzgerald singing Gershwin. Miles Davis. Donald Byrd. Nina Simone. What would be silly and cheery? The 1967 ‘Jungle Book’ soundtrack. ‘Moog Indigo.’ Also, I get stuck into grooves – I have a run on Barbra Streisand albums – ‘Stoney End’, ‘I am Barbra’ and ‘Color Me Barbra.’ I dig out old favourites – such as the first album I ever heard in my life, which was ‘Easy’ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. My Mam had this one when I was tiny in Darlington in the early Seventies – one of about four records she owned, and she played them again and again. I never heard this one again until quite recently – and it was my friends Jamie and Kyle hunting record stores all over the world who found me the exact same vinyl copy we used to have back then.

It really isn’t the same as playing cds or shuffling your digital downloads. I love those things too. I could get very nostalgic about cassette tapes. But vinyl records are different. They’re the equivalent of reading real books – and everything else is more ephemeral and ghostly by comparison. Also, one side of an album is 20 minutes – and that’s a perfect span of reading for me. Perhaps a chapter of a novel, or a story. Get up, turn over the record, make some tea, call Bernard Socks back over to flomp down on your lap as the music on side two crackles into life…

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